As one of the country’s most beautiful parks, Yosemite National Park in California should be on everyone’s must see list. And like most National Parks, there is not only so much to see, but dealing with crowds is a fact of life. Both can make the visit not only stressful, but make it difficult to get everything in during one visit. Follow these Yosemite top tips and hit these must see attractions first for a less stressful visit.
Where to Find Yosemite
I always wanted to visit Yosemite National Park, but I was way too afraid of the crowds to even think of going. I always pictured those huge lines and an overwhelming number of people. Yes, the mystic of it all had me excited, but the volume of visitors gave me hives. We are not a family that does well with crowds.
Yet, the mystic won out and I started my research to find the best time to visit, what not to miss, and hidden gems. No camping for our family, and we enjoyed good food. Yet I was concerned about where to stay near Yosemite and if there’d even be good food, but I discovered I didn’t need to worry at all.
I was sent a copy of the Moon Guide for Morocco awhile ago and loved it, so thought why not try the Moon Yosemite, Sequoia & Kings Canyon Guide. Well, it was spot on. It met our needs and should easily meet the needs of any traveler. You’ll find budget to luxury, camping to resort, campfire to gourmet meals, with kids or without. It’s all there.
While Yosemite can be overwhelming, by using the Moon Guide we found five not to be missed spots, a great place to stay, where to eat that was just right for us, and we discovered a few Yosemite top tips to share.
Yosemite certainly has its iconic spots where you just have to stop and take a picture. Not only are they truly majestic, but they’ll make you wonder why in the world you didn’t come here sooner.
5 Yosemite Must See Attractions
Tunnel View Viewpoint
It is literally right when you come out of the tunnel. This is the most ionic picture taken by all park visitors. It can get busy, but is well worth the stop. Looking left, you will see El Captain, to the right Bridalveil Fall, and the beautiful Half Dome is off in the distance. This is oe spot where you truly see it all.
Right below Half Dome is a spot that’s never very crowded. The round trip walk is two miles and well worth it! Bring a snack and enjoy the trail. It is a paved so all can enjoy. If you are visiting in late summer or fall, some portions of the trail may have turned to beautiful meadows, but no matter what the season, it is a must see.
This is a not to be missed spot, period. It’s a very short walk from the parking area to the edge of the cliff. You will seriously feel like you are in the clouds and there is really no other spot like it.
Considered America’s Naturalist, John Muir is one of my all time favorite explorers and writers. Muir once said, “In every walk with nature one receives far more than he seeks.”
Visiting Tuolumme Meadows is one of those spots; it gives and gives. There is a clear calm river, surrounded by wildlife. This alpine meadow is at a high point and is surrounded by majestic rock formations.
I totally understand why this spot was one of John Muir’s favorites. There are two trails not-to-miss. Soda Springs Trail, short at about 1.5 miles, gives a wonderful view of the meadows. The Lembert Dome Trail is a bit longer at 2.8 miles and will take you to the top of the dome.
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Valley View Viewpoint
When you arrive at the Valley View Viewpoint, you feel like you are at the start of it all. You have it all right there; the river and it’s wonderful babbling sound and the beautiful pines and amazing granite peaks that are the classic parts of Yosemite. One hint we took from our Moon Guide was to save it for the way out, given the entrance is located on a one way road. Keep your eye open for it, because it you miss it, it’s a one way road.
Where To Stay in Yosemite
Our favorite place to stay when visiting Yosemite is the AAA Four Diamond property, Tenaya Lodge. Located just outside the entrance to Fish Camp, this luxury mountain lodge includes a 10,000 square foot spa! I enjoyed a massage there and need to go back for more. The relaxation room is one of my favorites of the many spas I’ve visited.
The property has all the activities you could possibly want and then some, including a separate area for adults only lodging. The newly renovated Cottages will open in the spring of 2017. Perfect for more privacy or a family trip, these cottages are located close to hiking trails and beautiful pines. You’ll feel as though you are in the middle of Yosemite, yet still have all the amenities of the Lodge.
I am very excited about the new fun and innovative Stay, Dine, Paint, and Wine Package. After exploring Yosemite, you can get 15% off dinner in the Sierra Restaurant and then enjoy a paint and wine night with a professional artist. The masterpiece you create will be your reminder of your High Sierra vacation.
Yosemite Top Tips
- Book your lodging choice as soon as possible. Yosemite, like most other National Parks, fills up fast especially when the kids are out of school.
- Be an early riser and get to the park before everyone else.
- Visit at least once at sunset and after dark to do some spectacular stargazing. There are also park ranger Skies Over Yosemite programs and naturalist-led night hikes.
- Whether staying inside or outside of the park, look into tours or private tour guides. This will allow you to enjoy the drive and stop where you would like and explore. Some spots can become congested and parking can be an issue. Furthermore, having a guide or driver will allow you to be dropped off and explore and not waste time. Opt for the park’s free shuttle.
- If not using a guide or tour, make a plan for your visit and map it out. There are one-way roads and you do not want to miss a thing you have on your list. Think about visiting outside of Yosemite Valley, because it will be much less crowded.
- Wear layers and sunscreen and bring plenty of water.